Skip to content

New U of A Graduate Worked on Developing 10 Products for The Alberta Pulse Showcase (PCN Spring 2017) MAR 28 2017 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Pulse Crop News.

The Alberta Pulse Showcase provided an exciting opportunity for a new graduate from the University of Alberta’s Food, Science and Nutrition program to put her education into action.

Following her April 2016 graduation, Olivia Thompson was contracted by Alberta Agriculture’s Food Processing Development Centre (FPDC) to work exclusively on The Alberta Pulse showcase. She ended up working on many of the pulse-based products developed for the November events in honour of International Year of Pulses.

“I was involved in 10 of the projects – some more so than others,” said Thompson, who was hired as a Product/ Process Development Technologist. “Some I was more hands-on with the scientists and the clients, while others I was just involved in sourcing the ingredients and the background things like writing the reports. I was solely focusing on The Alberta Pulse showcase.”

She said the best part about getting out of the classroom and working with industry was learning from the people she met on the project.

“Initially, it was a little overwhelming because there were so many products going on so it took a little organization and teamwork,” she added. “As the ball got rolling, it was amazing to be able to apply the knowledge you learn in school and meet people who give you new opportunities and teach you new things.”

Thompson explained that she learned a lot from the scientists, through trial and error, reading research papers, and exploring the options available through various suppliers, and what kind of processing techniques they’re using to modify or get pulse fractions for developers like the food scientists at the FPDC.

She said that working on The Alberta Pulse showcase opened her eyes to the endless possibilities for including pulses in food products.

“Coming into it, I knew what pulses were and I’d worked on a few things with pulses on my own at home,” she said. “I think they’re pretty awesome. It’s a great opportunity for the food industry to apply these to their products because they’re low allergen, great for replacing gluten as an alternative binder compared to wheat crumb, and also as a great source of fibre and protein. From the sustainability side, there’s also an awesome opportunity for farmers and agriculture in general.”

Of course, all of the hard work was focused on presenting the new products at the three pulse showcase events in Leduc and Calgary in November.

“I feel like there could always be more time for development – it’s always so much fun to be able to create new products,” she said. “But at the same time, it’s nice to have it wrapped up so that these clients can go on to the next stages of commercialization and getting their products to the marketplace, if that’s what they choose to do.”

Thompson was pleased to see local researchers, ingredient suppliers, farmers and representatives of other organizations attend the events focused entirely on pulses.

“It really showcased our knowledge and resources within Alberta from the local farmers’ perspective to the local businesses wanting to get on board,” she said. “And then from the Food Processing Development Centre’s perspective, bringing it to life to help businesses commercialize these innovative products and bring them to the masses for everyone to enjoy.”

The excitement about pulses didn’t end with the pulse showcase events, Thompson said.

“I think there’s still a very high demand for incorporating pulses into food products,” she noted. “With the International Year of Pulses there was a lot of exposure to local businesses and moving forward we’ll probably see a lot of people requesting to incorporate pulses into their products. As well going forward, we’ll probably be working with the clients involved in the pulse showcase to extend their product lines or get their products involved in The Alberta Pulse showcase to the market.”

Thompson said that she sampled many new pulse products throughout the showcase project and tried many new pulse recipes at home, as well. Her favourite, she said, is a black bean salsa. One of the recipes she has enjoyed making for this is APG’s Black Bean Pico de Gallo.

“It’s becoming a more versatile source of protein and fibre in my diet, for sure,” she said.

Thompson’s contract to work on the Pulse Showcase ended in March, but she received an extension to work at Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s Food Processing Development Centre in Leduc on other projects.